This week’s Parashah, Vayishlach, begins with the conflict between Yaakov and Esav. When Yaakov received word from his messengers that Esav was coming towards him with an armed force of four hundred men, his immediate reaction was fear, as Scripture says, “Yaakov became very frightened, and it distressed him…” (Bereshit 32:8) Rashi explains these two terms: “He was afraid that he would be killed; and it distressed him – that he might have to kill others.” This is a typical reaction of a Jewish soldier; in fact, it was Golda Meir, an early Prime Minister of the modern State of Israel, who said words to that effect; that she could forgive Arabs for killing Jewish soldiers, but she could not forgive them for making Jewish boys into killers.
When Yaakov and Esav meet, they kiss. Jewish Tradition is ambivalent about the implications of this kiss. One interpretation is that Esav was permanently changed; the other is that although he kissed him here with full sincerity, historically there would be thousands of years of conflict ahead – first, with the Roman Empire and later, as Esav evolved, with the Christian world. Rivkah “Imenu” had received a prophecy regarding the relationship between descendants of the twins who were already fighting in her womb, “And HaShem said to her, ‘Two nations are in your womb; and two Kingdoms from your insides shall be separated; the might shall pass from one Kingdom to the other, but ultimately the elder shall serve the younger.’ ” The Talmud elaborates on the relationship: “They will never be equal in greatness; when this one rises, the other will fall, and so it says in Yechezkel (26:2), “…the one who said, ‘I will be full’ is soon destroyed.” Tyre was filled only from the destruction of Yerushalayim.” (Megilah 6a) The Roman Empire and Christianity were ascendant for some 2,000 years. With the establishment of the State of Israel, one might have thought that at last, the tide had turned. Except that our “cousins,” the descendants of Yishmael, have stood in our way; Yishmael, about whom Hagar received the following prophecy: “…Behold, you will conceive, and give birth to a son; you shall name him Yishmael, for HaShem has heard your prayer. And he shall be a wild-ass of a man; his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him…” (Bereshit 16:11-12) Ramban says that the meaning of this verse is that his descendants will increase greatly in numbers and they will make war upon every nation.
In light of the prophecy mentioned above, it is not surprising that the United States, the greatest Christian nation, has locked horns with Yishmael in our time. This conflict has metamorphosed into a continuation of the struggle between the Shiite sect of Islam and their Sunni counterpart, in which the U.S. has become inextricably entangled. The fact that America fails to recognize the Sunni-Shiite conflict as the continuation of their nearly 1400-Year Civil War that arose from their violent disagreement over the succession of the leadership of Islam after the death of Mohammed, is nothing short of unbelievable. That leadership passed to Abu Bakr, one of Mohammed’s closest companions. Some in the Islamic community believed that the leadership should have passed to Ali, who was Mohammed’s cousin, his adopted son, his first convert and husband of his daughter Fatima. Supporters of Abu became the Sunnis; those of Ali, the Shiites. The Caliphate transferred a number of times before it reached Ali, who was murdered in 661, and buried in Najaf in today’s Iraq, which remains a major Shiite holy site. The murder of Ali seems to have defined the relationship between the two sects, which echoes today in the streets of Baghdad with the mayhem of suicide car bombers, beheadings and other niceties. The profound lack of understanding of the nature of the Sunni-Shiite conflict has not made the position of the U.S. any easier.
But riding to the rescue of President Bush and to save the world from impending catastrophe, is the posse of ten, heroically led by James Baker, known for his great “friendship” for the State of Israel and the Jewish People. Their recommendations include “negotiations with Syria and Iran,” arch-enemies of Israel and the Jews. Indeed, the President of Iran has made clear that the major goal of his foreign policy is the destruction, G-d Forbid, of the State of Israel. One of the recommendations of the panel is that, in pursuing a “regional solution” for the problems of the Mid-East, of which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is of course the root, Israel should forthwith “return the Golan Heights to Syria,” a proposal which, when analyzed from the normal strategic and military perspectives would, G-d Forbid, be suicidal for the State of Israel!
So here we are. The American electorate has voted for a change in American policy, and the Baker Group has seemingly provided that. Appeasement of the Islamic world with the sacrifice of Israel, seems to be next. The forces of Gog and Magog seem to be aligning themselves, with Israel at the center of the battleground. The “footsteps of Mashiach” are heard in the background. Chaza”l said they hoped for the Coming of Mashiach but did not want to see the prelude. It is not hard to imagine why.